With pride, joy, and more than a few hugs, Yosemite High School’s Class of 2016 was celebrated by hundreds last week as they accepted their diplomas to thunderous applause inside Badger Stadium.
In total, 153 students, 18 of them valedictorians, strode across the stage, some dancing, others waving to family and friends, all with a smile on their face.
“Your smile should convey appreciation, kindness, love, strength, and respect, for these are the individuals who provided you with the sturdiest foundation and your initial home,” said Rose Curley, ASB President and one of the night’s student speakers. “Be proud of where you come from and know your supporters are proud of you ... This location is surely not our final destination, but we have been changed for the better because of where we come from, Yosemite High School.”
Principal Randy Seals, speaking to the crowd, described the story of graduating student Ethan Solomon, who underwent a life of adversity by requiring open heart surgery for a heart defect the summer of his sophomore year, after his sister Emily’s diagnosis with a severe illness while he was in the fifth grade.
Even with all of those trials, Seals said, Solomon focused on being a positive force, played soccer, maintained a 4.0 gpa, and ultimately, fully represented the ideals of “living Badgerously,” a school mantra.
“You see, Badgers place family first,” Seals told the crowd. “Badgers constantly seek the positive in any situation, which in turn allows us to overcome adversity and learn the most valuable life lessons along the way. By living Badgerously, we tackle our greatest fears in life head on, but always by placing greatest importance on others’ needs and wants above our own personal interests.”
In closing his speech, Seals offered wisdom to each of the graduating class, and reminded them to always “live Badgerously.”
“Graduates, regardless of the path you choose to take in your life, do so with a passion and conviction that will separate you from all others,” Seals continued. “When you encounter times that you find to be challenging in the years ahead, harken back to what you’ve learned from your parents and family, but also those lessons learned as a Yosemite Badger ... I offer you the heartiest of congratulations and best wishes for a long, healthy lifetime of happiness and excellence, in everything you do.”
Everyone also thanked Ellen Peterson, the last of Yosemite’s original teachers who retired this year after 40 years as a Badger - and who helped invent the mantra “living Badgerously” with Kellie Solomon.
“I am certain of one thing. I could never give back what Yosemite High School has given to me, but I will do everything in my power to try,” Peterson said, adding she will volunteer at the school, go to its athletic and other competitions, and further support student efforts in her spare time.
Students enjoyed Sober Grad Night at The Landing at the Grove across the street after the ceremony June 8.
Yosemite High School 2016 Valedictorians
Mackenzie Behrens, Naryan Black, Brook Lynn Bragdon, Clara Briley, Rose Curley, Gianna DeFelice, Allie Donnell, Isabella Flaherty, Kevin Kirk, Quentin Lawrence, Connor McMechan, Tanner Meeks, Jenny Mills, Meagan Montalto, Brendan Rhoan, Katie Whitcomb, Travis Wood, Trevor Wood.